The second the school bell rings signaling that school’s out for
summer, it seems that children immediately forget everything they’ve
studied over the past
nine months. When they return to school in the fall, playing catch
up takes time.
Studies show that this brain drain can result in as much as a few
months’ worth of learning lost over the summer. The achievement gap
widens in the fall as
students struggle to “relearn” what they knew the spring prior.
“Typically, teachers spend the first week to the first two months of
the school year trying to bring student knowledge up to a specific
level in order to
advance their learning,” says Debra Hill, associate professor in the
College of Education at Argosy University, Chicago and immediate past
president of the
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. “This is
found most commonly in math, where review can last through the first
full semester in some
So when all your kids want is down time, how do you keep their minds tuned up?
While proactive summer learning can certainly improve a child’s
retention rate, the way that they learn in the summer may be different
from how they learn
while in the classroom. “Learning is an ongoing, lifelong activity,”
says Hill. “A mental break for your kids in the summer should occur not
learning, but based on the activities students engage in related to
learning. Summer should be about more reading for fun, exploration,
application of what they have learned.
“Since students do not often practice by doing or by teaching
others, it would follow that the application of what they have learned
in school through
hands-on activities in the summer will assist in retention in the
fall,” says Hill. “Hands-on experiences, conversations and physical
activity will help
kids continue to be mentally active.” Providing students with
opportunities to participate in activities they consider fun will not
lessen the learning.
“The more you can keep your students accessing previously learned
knowledge in a new and practical way, the more it is likely to get
permanently ingrained in their brains,” says Kevin Yeoman, an
instructor in the Game Art & Design program at The Art Institute of
Family meals, trips to the store, collecting shells on the beach,
heading to sports camp and almost any other activity can have a learning
parents engage in conversation with their kids about the activity.
“Learning a new skill, or about a new place, or a different way of doing
meeting new people are ways of studying. There will not be a test,
yet the new information contributes to the overall mental growth of the
“Keep your students actively engaged in the world,” says Yeoman.
“The more they can apply their book knowledge to new experiences and
enjoy, the more learning will take place.
“You don’t want to create a resistance to learning by forcing your
child into the same types of activities they do during the year,” says
take the lessons they’ve learned in school and apply them to
everyday situations. Whether it’s having your child map out the route to
the grocery store or
use basic geometry to create a sandcastle, you’re providing them the
opportunity to apply their book knowledge in a new way.”
And that can even hold true with video games. “There are excellent
technology tools such as video games and online projects that are
engaging,” says Hill. “The key is balance and not encouraging kids
to focus most of their time on their electronic toys.
“Ask kids what they like and want to do,” suggests Hill. “As an
adult, examine what learning can take place when your child gets to
select the activities
they participate in. Talk to your kids, ask questions, provide
problems to be solved, give them opportunities to explore and model what
it’s like to be a